Sunday, 29 September 2013

Week 40: This Is The Way I Brush My Teeth.

Brushing my teeth has always seemed like a chore. All that paste, all that foam, all that buffing and polishing ... those precious three minutes in which I could be doing something else. Actually, usually I am doing something else, like checking in on Facebook or taking a quick peek at my emails. Maybe I'll throw some clothes back in the cupboard or put on my socks. Rarely do I brush my teeth simply to brush my teeth.

I had to stop and think about this though: brushing your teeth is supposed to take about three minutes (I'm sure I heard this somewhere). Aren't those three minutes an ideal time to practice mindfulness? I wouldn't be shocked if my teeth ended up cleaner as a result, and maybe that pesky issue of receding gums would be reduced if I didn't just bash away at the task without any thought.

Three minutes, twice a day. Surely not too hard.

Mindful oral hygiene.

A mini meditation. The foam is just a bonus.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Week 39 Update: Dance, Dance, Dance!

You know that saying: "Dance like no one's watching"? I've always loved it. Whenever I read it it sends a tingle of freedom and empowerment up my spine. Why is it such a delicious, heart expanding sentence? Because for some reason, sometime between childhood and adulthood we become seriously self-conscious and put a heavy ol' lid on our impulsive, innate urge to dance.

My 18 month old son and I have danced together a lot this week. Watching him is nothing short of joyful. He hears the music and he dances. He breaks it down like no one's watching - because, he couldn't care less if they were! He feels the beat, he feels the urge, he does what feels good. I'm sorry I've lost that carefree-ness somewhere along the track. In fact, I know I lost it behind me on the path somewhere long, long ago. For as long as I can remember, the dance floor has been a place of serious unease. I don't like to dance in public; I look ... silly. Yet, maybe it's because I'm getting older, or maybe it's the impact of motherhood, but somehow - slowly, slowly - this self-consciousness is dimming. I'm still not likely to lead my husband or my friends onto the dance floor, but if they invited me I might be a little less reluctant to join them.

This metaphor, if I can call it that, of dancing extends well beyond the dance floor. This week I've been thinking about how and where else I'm held back due to fear, self-consciousness, doubt.What I've found is that this idea of 'no one's watching' or of there being no consequences (social awkwardness for a start) is an interesting and empowering way to cut through my fears. Who cares who's watching? Well ... we all do to some extent, but I, for one, plan to shrug it off more often.

Dancing is one seriously fun and empowering way to experience the present moment, to practice mindfulness. I've cut some pretty mean moves this week ... of course no one but my son had the pleasure of witnessing them. You'll just have to trust me ...

Still, if you do happen to see me busting some moves around and about, I don't care if you think I look silly or not!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Week 39: This Body Was Made for Dancing.

I had the absolute pleasure of spending the weekend at a yoga workshop. I could natter on about how amazing it was for a long time, but I'll spare you all that and get to the point: Dancing.

The teacher announced that we were going to free-form dance. Two things happened for me simultaneously: my stomach dropped in horror and my heart filled with excitement. I felt instantly embarrassed about having to be so free and open and potentially vulnerable, while also feeling the energy that comes with the promise of an experience that has the power to transform. In any case, fear or otherwise, I gave myself wholeheartedly to the activity. And it blew my mind. I wanted to cry, I wanted to keep moving, I wanted to understand the barriers that broke down - the way I became so present in myself that I didn't care what anyone else was doing, who was watching and how 'silly' I might look.

It was possibly the most profound experience of mindfulness I've experienced in a long time. I was moved - literally.

That absolute presence I experienced - delicious. The feeling of my body moving in space with no barriers, no restrictions and no self-consciousness - divine.

So this week there's going to be dancing. Every day, just dancing.

Me, the music, the moment.

Week 38 Update: Housework .... Hm.

Housework. As I mentioned at the start of the week, housework isn't my favourite thing (is it anyone's?). Usually, I take to housework with the sole intention of getting it finished. As I work, my mind is on the next job I have to complete, or that well deserved down-time I hope to fit in. This week, I tried a different approach - simply doing the housework to do the housework. No other agenda, not focusing on the outcome or the next thing, just doing the housework and being present.

Surprise, surprise, it was HARD!

I think a huge part of this difficulty has to do with my mindset about housework. Because I perceive it as a hurdle to doing the fun/relaxing/enjoyable things I'd rather be doing, it becomes a chore rather than just what I'm doing.

In those moments this week when I 'succeeded' in 'doing the housework to do the housework', I felt a sense of things slowing down, of that 'urgency' that so often permeates my actions falling away. It was nice. Really nice.

Just because something's hard doesn't mean it's not worth doing. So I'll keep trying. 'Doing the housework to do the housework'. Because let's face it - there's no shortage of housework!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Week 38: Doing the Housework to Do the Housework.

Last night my husband, son and I returned home from four days away. It was our second little trip in as many weeks and we've come home happy, exhausted, and with a pile of housework staring us down.

Now, I don't love housework. I don't hate it either, it's just rarely at the top of my list of things to do. But this week, it really needs doing. From the piles of clothes that need washing and folding, to the floors that need to be vacuumed and mopped and the bathrooms that need a good once-over, my house is begging for some attention. So attention it will get ... mindful attention, hopefully.

It's HARD to do housework mindfully, or at least that's my experience. Usually we're so focused on the outcome of what we're doing or on the next task we must complete, that we tidy and clean on autopilot. Becoming a mum has made this even harder. There's a delicate dance that happens when you have kids. If the housework is done while they're sleeping then there's no time for mummy to rest or do something 'for her'. On the other hand, if the housework is done while the children are up, it a) takes longer and b) is harder to give your full attention to. I tend to do both - some housework while my son sleeps, some while he's up. Very different experiences, both with their pleasures and pains.

Anyway, this week, as I stare down and ultimately surrender to the housework that must be done, I'm going to aim to do it mindfully. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us to "wash the dishes to wash the dishes" - taking pleasure in the act itself, not being focused on the end result (clean dishes) or what that means (that you can now sit down and have a cuppa). I'm going to apply this to as many household tasks as I can this week.

Here I go now to hang the washing.

Week 37 Update: Balance for Balance.

My aim over the past week was to spend some time each day doing a yoga balance. Balances hold a special place in my heart - I really cannot speak highly enough of them! This week I practiced Warrior III, Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose), Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Standing Pidgeon Pose. I loved it. I even got the chance, while away on holiday, to do my balances on the beach. Ahhhh!

As I set out to balance every day, my intention was to notice and settle into the way the chatter in the mind tends to quieten when we're focused on balance - it's hard to think about that deadline at work when you're trying not to topple over. While this was a worthy goal in and of itself, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this focus on physical balance overflowed into other areas as well. Being away on holiday for a few days last week, I found myself balancing things in other ways - Facebook got less of my attention, my family got more; I found the time to just sit and listen to the ocean, to read, to chat with others; I balanced my anxiety about flying and travelling with my young son with an 'It'll be right' attitude - all in all, I found balance.

I like this idea of balance beyond a physical practice. It really comes down to recognising that we live in a fast-paced, modern society. Sometimes we go fast, but we can balance it with times of slow. Sometimes our focus is here, other times we place it there. Sometimes we're happy and sometimes we're sad. Yet no matter what, the moment we're in can act as an anchor and we can seek the balance we crave every day.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Week 37: A Balance a Day.

I love yoga balances. Absolutely love them.

From Tree Pose to Crow Pose and everything in between and beyond, I think they are awesome. The concentration, the freedom, the challenge, the strength, the 'sweet spot'. What's not to love.

And they are absolutely a gift when it comes to mindfulness practice. How hard is it to balance when you're busy worrying about what to make for dinner or that argument you had with your partner? When you're balancing, when you're balanced, there's no room for all of that mental clutter. It's just you and the moment.

Plus, balances can teach us a heck of a lot about ourselves. Those moments when we get frustrated with our lack of balance - what do they tell us? The way we deal with being thrown off centre, diverted from our goal, not quite achieving what we set out to achieve - this teaches us a lot. Balances (and the struggles they present) offer a glimpse into our psyche and allow us an opportunity to practice on the mat what real life throws our way again and again - being thrown off centre, diverted from our goals, falling 'short' of what we expect ...

That's why I'm devoting this week to yoga balances. A balance a day to keep the mental clutter away!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Week 36 Update: The Extraordinary in The Ordinary.

I spent the past week away with my family at the snow. Beautiful Mount Hotham, the surprisingly warm sun shining, the white snow glistening (and eventually melting ...); a break from my ordinary every day.

So I set out to take in the moments that made up my days while separated from my 'normal' existence. Sometimes this was easy. A breathtaking view of the sun rising over the snow-capped mountains; the vision of my son and his cousins playing joyfully in their snow-suits; the sensation of feet sinking in slushy snow. At other times, I lost the extraordinary and found myself deeply entrenched in the ordinary. The same things still had to happen - my son had to be fed, played with, coaxed down for naps. Food had to be cooked, dishes had to be washed, toys had to be picked up. In these moments I found myself missing the moment. Instead, my mind would often trail off into daydreaming or I would let myself swim about in the fogginess of fatigue that seemed to buckle my knees while we were away.

Still, the moments that were extraordinary really were just that. The trick now, I suppose, is to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. In those run-of-the-mill moments, there's always something to see. We just have to remember to see it. In those moments when my son cries out in protest at his desperately-needed nap, what can I see? What about as I wash my 1500th dish for the week? What then?

There's always, always something to see. The extraordinary exists in the ordinary.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Week 36: A Break From The Ordinary.

I'm on holiday! Up at the beautiful Mount Hotham where the sun is shining and the (disappearing) snow is glistening.

Far from the everyday; far from the washing machine, computer, groceries ... dare I say I fear the onset of boredom? No, certainly not ... well, maybe, just a little.

We become so accustomed to our 'normal', our routines, our surroundings. Without the everyday things that fill our days, what have we got? This moment, that's what. In fact, perhaps being away from the everyday is a brilliant opportunity to focus on the moment for the very fact that it's different.

So that's my mission for this week. I'm out of my everyday surroundings - time to take in the 'moments' that make up my days.

Week 35 Update: I'm Doing Alright.

A week of studying my motherly self. A week well spent.

I tend to be pretty harsh on myself at the best of times,  but motherhood has put a whole new spin on things. I set the bar perhaps a little out of reach and then find myself frustrated and guilty when I can't reach my lofty standards.

This week I've realised that the pressure I put on myself and the guilt I experience are a choice. I can choose to wallow in guilt, to beat myself up about not being good enough. Or I can let all of that go and sit comfortably in the knowledge that my little boy is loved and cared for.

As soon as I put my motherly self in the spotlight I actually relaxed into the role more,  taking my cues from my son. And it turns out I'm doing better than ok. I'm doing great. I just have to remember that!

There is one thing I know would make me a 'better' mummy though ... I need to do more for me. I need to feel loved and nurtured too. Massage, anyone?!